Villages in China are, according to recent law, "self-governed" by villager committees, whose members are elected by villagers and held accountable to villagers and villager representative assemblies. Previous studies have focused on the institutions of self-government, assuming that, if unimpeded, they will enhance both direct villager participation in governance and the representation of villager interests. In contrast, this article focuses on local understandings and ideals about political roles and relationships, as constructed through everyday political claims and practices. The article draws on qualitative research in four villages in Yunnan, southwest China. In these villages, neither cadres nor villagers used the word "represent" to characterise the role of members of village government. Furthermore, villagers could not explain what villager representatives do or what "representative" in the title "villager representative" means. This leads us to ask: How do village residents conceive the responsibilities of villager representatives and cadres? Is the lack of reference to "representation" merely a linguistic issue, or do they have a different conception of villager-cadre and villager-representative relationships? In addressing these questions, this article aims to enrich our understanding of village self-government in China and contribute to theorising about political representation.